Three French publishers have dropped lawsuits against Google alleging that the company infringed their copyright.
It's the latest sign that Google's relationship with the French book industry is on the mend after it upset publishers there by scanning their books without permission for its Google Books collection.
"It's excellent news," Philippe Colombet, director of Google Books France, said last Thursday after hearing that publishers Gallimard, Flammarion and Albin Michel had failed to renew their claims against Google in a French court earlier in the week.
"We have always said we were willing to hold a constructive dialog with publishers from around the world, to preserve and distribute the world's cultural heritage, and to identify new commercial opportunities for authors and publishers," Colombet said.
The three publishers did not respond to requests for comment.
Last month another French publisher, La Martinière Groupe, abandoned a five-year-old legal battle with Google by signing an agreement to digitize and commercialize its out-of-print but in-copyright books.
La Martinière Groupe and Google said the deal will provide a fair deal for authors and copyright holders, and allow the public to rediscover old books.
Working with Google, La Martinière will prepare a catalog of its out-of-print books and decide which ones Google may digitize. Google has also agreed to delete books it has already scanned if the publisher asks. Finally, the two will share revenue from sales of electronic versions of out-of-print works.
The two companies did not mention whether they would consider selling paper versions of these old books through Google's on-demand printing service.
Putting out-of-print books back on sale via on-demand printing may seem like a good deal for authors, whose books then remain perpetually available. However, it's a touchy subject in France: if a publisher lets a book go out of print there, then the author can take back publishing rights to it in the hope of getting a better publicity, royalty or distribution deal from a new publisher. On-demand printing could allow publishers to hang on to existing publishing rights without having to commit funds to marketing or distributing the book.